By Lauren Wanko
Boats are back on the showroom floor at MarineMax in Brick after flood waters inundated the store and destroyed the marina. Now staffers are waiting for many of their customers to return. Business is down 20 to 30 percent.
“I think after the storm we were hoping that a lot of lost boats, people were gonna re-buy boats and replace what they had, and that really hasn’t happened yet,” said MarineMax Regional President, Mid-Atlantic District Michael Aiello. “I believe it’s because people haven’t gotten their insurance payments on their houses.”
When insurance settlements start rolling in, Aiello says many storm victims are forced to prioritize how to use the cash.
“When we’re talking to them, they fix their house with the money rather than their boat at this point,” Aiello said.
It’s a story fishing enthusiast Brian Paul is all too familiar with.
“A lot of my friends who live down here, they’re just overwhelmed with all the work they had to do. So the boat was the last thing on their mind,” Paul, of Pennsylvania, said.
BoatUS estimates 25,000 boats in New Jersey were lost or damaged by Superstorm Sandy and it’s the repair business that’s booming at MarineMax. Aiello’s hired more employees to restore damaged boats. As for the marina, there aren’t many empty slips.
“We’re probably 75 percent full right now, which is good,” Aiello said. “We expected it to be down a little more than that. So I think some of the local marinas are closed now so people had no where to go.”
Nearby in Point Pleasant, a photographer snaps shots of a $1.2 million Viking yacht. It’s a new listing for broker Drew Santoro. He says the high-end market has taken off.
“It started really in January, February. And it has gone through the summer,” said South Jersey Yacht Sales Manager Santoro. “Compared to last year, it is head and shoulders above where it was last year.”
The reason for the uptick in sales?
“Difficult to tell. You know, I think a lot of people were looking at the economy, waiting to see what the result of the election would be and the wealthy people, I think, just decided they weren’t gonna hold out any more,” Santoro said.
The boat that Drew is selling was built at the Viking Yacht Company in New Gretna. It’s one of Burlington County’s largest employers. Eight hundred boat builders are on the job. And this summer they’re just as busy as last year.
The company’s on track to manufacture anywhere from 50 to 60 yachts this coming year. The boats range in size from 42 to 92 feet long. The price tag? Anywhere from $1 million to $6.5 million.
“What we have seen is people that have kind of waited out from the storm and now they’re showing up at fishing tournaments. They’re interested in buying boats,” said Viking Yacht Company Director of Communications Peter Frederiksen.
Viking Yacht Company is just as busy making repairs to storm-damaged vessels.
“A lot of work was created by that storm and we’re still putting boats back together from that storm,” Frederiksen said.
As for MarineMax, Aiello hopes end of summer sales will lure customers back on the showroom floor and ultimately back on the water.